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Fury over Highgate playground deal

PUBLISHED: 11:27 30 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:53 07 September 2010

Tan Parsons OPPONENTS have branded the process that saw work start yesterday on a children s playground in Highgate a sham. The adventure playground in Waterlow Park, just a stone s throw from the grave of Karl Marx, was given the green light after a week

Tan Parsons

OPPONENTS have branded the process that saw work start yesterday on a children's playground in Highgate a sham.

The adventure playground in Waterlow Park, just a stone's throw from the grave of Karl Marx, was given the green light after a week-long consultation which Camden Council rushed to meet government deadlines.

The research showed 60 per cent of people questioned were in favour of the playground being built near the hollow oak tree in the south of the park, but the Friends of Waterlow Park held their own survey and found only 20 per cent of respondents supported the plan.

Chairwoman Ceridwen Roberts said: "By deciding to proceed, Camden are clearly going against the wishes of the majority of park users. Lines of sight from the playground extend as far as the statue of Sir Sidney Waterlow.

"Given the historic nature of the park and the original gift of the park as a garden for the gardenless, the choice of location and hasty decision to proceed is particularly unfortunate.

"There are no winners when a forced process results in inappropriate expenditure from the public purse."

The group is not opposed to a playground in the park in principle, but would prefer it to be in a more secluded area. They have now refused to help with the details of landscaping.

The playground, designed for eight to 13-year-olds, was planned after council designers spoke to pupils at nearby St Joseph's primary school, who said they would like a play area. It is funded by £2.6million of government cash and the council is under pressure to spend it as soon as possible in order to qualify for the money.

Cromwell Avenue resident Ken Gaw opposes the idea and has called for the council to put the plans on ice.

"It's a sham - if they want to put this playground in they shouldn't pretend they have done a consultation when they haven't," Mr Gaw said.

"This is the first week I have seen any posters up in the park about the plans and they have already made their decision. It's appalling and unacceptable."

Other park users told the Ham&High they were dismayed about the consultation. Patricia Britain said: "I support inclusion but when my son turned eight he was tired of using play areas. I just don't think formal structures work for eight to 13-year-olds.

"Besides, children already use this area to play football and frisbee. If Camden had this money that needed to be spent they could have asked us what we want. There was a bandstand that burned down 20 years ago. They could have replaced that."

Virginia Cleugh, 38, added: "Parents who want a play area only have to walk 15 minutes to Highgate Woods. There is a big, well-supervised children's play area there."

A spokeswoman for Camden Council said: "We have not railroaded through the works to Waterlow Park. The council undertook consultation with a range of stakeholders and there was significant support for the proposals, so the work is proceeding on that basis.

"Where there have been objections, we have sought to listen to the feedback and improve the proposals where we can, including changes in the choice of equipment and in the layout within the chosen site.


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